Chartchai says NCPO 'must retain' Section 44 powers

Chartchai says NCPO 'must retain' Section 44 powers

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) needs to retain special powers under Section 44 of the interim charter to prevent any crises before the general election, a Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) spokesman says. 

During the period of transition to full democracy, a power vacuum cannot be allowed to exist and the NCPO needs the special power to handle any crises that could arise either at home or from abroad, CDC spokesman Chartchai Na Chiang Mai said yesterday.

He was responding to Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva's concern about Section 257 of the draft charter which retains the sweeping powers of the NCPO chief and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha including the invocation of the controversial Section 44.

Mr Chartchai said he believed the NCPO would not exploit the draft charter clause to prolong its hold on power.

He added the CDC has only followed the traditional practice of keeping the powers of coup-makers or coup-appointed governments until elected governments are sworn in. It wasn't seeking any powers that coup-makers hadn't given themselves before.

He cited the previous 2007 charter which also allowed the coup-installed Surayud Chulanont government to keep its power under the 2006 interim charter until the new elected government of the late Samak Sundaravej was formed after the Dec 23 general election in 2007.

"After the new constitution is enacted, there is no knowing what crises could happen before or after the general election. The NCPO must be given this special power just in case," the CDC spokesman said.

Mr Chartchai also said the government had held talks with the Election Commission to consider capping the distribution of draft charter copies to less than 80% of households nationwide.

Publication of the copies will cost a lot of money, given that the draft charter contains a total of 270 sections, though cutting distribution could affect campaigns to promote the draft charter's content, he admitted.

However, copies of a summary of the draft charter's key elements, with the aid of infographics, could be an option to achieve the targeted distribution of at least 80% of all households, Mr Chartchai said.

Meanwhile, Sant Hathirat, chairman of the Heroes of Democracy Foundation, yesterday handed proposals to the CDC to improve the draft constitution.

One of the proposals says the NCPO must step down from power immediately after the promulgation of the new constitution.

Other proposals call for the prime minister to be directly elected, for the Senate to be a wholly elected chamber, and for the rights and freedoms of the public to be increased.

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